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These are in reverse order by year. I'll usually keep a top favorite at the beginning of list.
PS Sunrise (1927) is the oldest movie and only silent film that I love. I tacked it onto the end of this list because I didn't want to make a list with only one silent film;)
Also, I'm aware many of these are embellished, but how good would these films be be without some creative license? Enjoy:)
Romance in Manhattan (1935)
A new classic film favorite!
I have seen over 2,000 classic films in the last 6 years, and somehow I let this one slip by me. It is rare that I uncover a new classic film favorite, but I did with this film.
"Romance in Manhattan" works so well thanks to the wonderful performances by Ginger Rogers and especially Francis Lederer. I would have loved to see him hit stardom, but he had a long career and lived 100 years despite not becoming a household name. Lederer is so charismatic and handsome in this film with such an exuberant spirit. A young Ginger Rogers is lovely, has great chemistry with Lederer, and is a loving sister.
There are two subplots, but this is mostly about a man coming to America to live the "American Dream" which he does while finding romance along with it. If that appeals to you, then I highly recommend this delightful little gem.
Anna and the King (1999)
Quickly became one of my most romantic films of all time!
I have seen "Anna and the King of Siam" with Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison and loved it! Totally recommend it to classic movie fans! I was never a huge fan of "The King and I" though it is lovely to look at and I love Deborah Kerr. I've intended to watch "Anna and the King" for some time, and it happened to come on HDNET movies this weekend. Thankfully, I recorded it.
On the first watch, it quickly became one of my most romantic films of all time! I know it's much more fiction than fact, but good movies usually are to me. This was lavish, beautifully photographed, had a lovely score, had enough action to build suspense, and, wow, did Jodie Foster and Yung-Fat Chow (they've reversed his name) have palpable chemistry. Loved everything about it!
I've watched it again several times already. I rarely do that. I also rarely give a film a 10, especially right away, but this one gets one for all the reasons above and more. I recommend it to anyone who loves period pieces, especially romantic ones.
Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)
Nancy steals the show in Rio!
This is a delightful early Jane Powell film. It reminds me a bit of Holiday in Mexico with the crush on the much older man not stopping spunky Jane! She's also as precious as she is in A Date with Judy. Young Jane couldn't help but light up the screen with her fun performances.
It's Ann Sothern month on TCM and I'm not sure I'd have had the chance to see how delightful she is otherwise and am so grateful they have honored her. This is one of my favorites I've seen. Jane and Ann look very much like mother and daughter and both have lovely singing voices. I have to confess I skipped through the Carmen Miranda numbers (I think you either love her or you don't as a singer, but I liked her acting role) but I loved all the others. I particularly loved the chemistry with the tall, dark and handsome Barry Sullivan as a rare lead and Louis Calhern as the witty and fun grandfather.
Lovely Technicolor and costuming, fine acting, good chemistry, the Brazilian influence on many of the musical numbers, and the precious romantic comedy script made a rainy afternoon just perfect!
Quality Street (1937)
A delightful play literally put to the screen!
I appreciated this as a delightful play literally put to the screen. It was a bit of a mix of Jane Austen's Emma and perhaps Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford with a touch of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Of course, as written by James Barrie it had its own twist on British society as set in the early 1800's on Quality Street where every woman on it knows everyone's business.
This is more of an endorsement and less of a plot review, though. I rarely love Katharine Hepburn. I appreciate her as a fine actress, and it was nice to see her acting feminine without fighting for feminism. She was sweet and restrained with just the right amount of tears, smiles, and feminine wiles. This is not something we see much of or at all after this film. This is definite a 1930's version of a chick flick.
The supporting cast shines all the way. I adore Franchot Tone and love seeing him in the lead. The women on Quality were written and acted so well but with the satiric and comic flare to make this a fun little romp. I particularly noticed they got the costuming right with the Empire waist gowns and not the hoop skirts used in 1940's delightful but totally inaccurate as to wardrobe in Pride and Prejudice.
Just as the above authors' work still holds up today, so does this delightful little film.
Down to the Sea in Ships (1949)
Two full hours of exciting sailing!
There's no one who plays the salty old sea captain quite like Lionel Barrymore. And few child stars had the love of the camera and the audience like Dean Stockwell (who's still acting even now, well into his 70's). I've never been a huge Richard Whidmark fan, but I've never made a point to become one. Now I see what all the fuss was about as he embarked on his early leading man career as the (top-billed) first mate and book-learned master seaman of a whale boat out of New Bedford, MA in the late 1800's.
The three main characters are on a consistent wave of hooking each other where it hurts when ultimately it's their pride and inability to get along as the order of a ship must prevail over the lives of the men. These are hard lessons for a boy who is in the school of whaling, book-learning, and life while on board. Ultimately, he learns all of his lessons and then some in this bittersweet story that will make you watch and root for the whole crew. We see a bit about whaling, but this is really about a boy becoming a man and the men who help him. The supporting cast couldn't be better as many of the greatest character actors help pull this ship successfully out to sea.
Is this as good as Captain's Courgeous? Well, it's not really fair to compare. If you don't expect Captain's Courageous, you'll hopefully not be disappointed. If you expect a fine character driven story while set on the sea in ships, then you'll hopefully enjoy two full hours of exciting sailing.
Sunrise at Campobello (1960)
Bellamy and Garson make a truly convincing team.
I'm a fan of biographies, but most I never want to watch again even if they were pretty good. SUNRISE AT CAMPOBELLO is an exception to my usual rule. This is such a complex and emotional film that it's worth seeing at least once.
Ralph Bellamy repeats his successful stage role and does so with great aplomb. But the real bravo goes to Greer Garson. She's barely recognizable as Eleanor Roosevelt. I'm sure she gave Meryl Streep a lesson or two in becoming a real life character vs. portraying one. Both are fine actresses, but I'd say Garson accomplishes this goal even more so than Streep in THE IRON LADY. However, there's no need to have a competition. My point is that the great actresses of today clearly were influenced by the great ones of yesteryear. Garson, though nominated, didn't win the Oscar. Elizabeth Taylor did for BUTTERFIELD 8. This film is an example of an actress who might have won in a less political year. But the Oscars aren't the litmus test for all films.
Garson's Eleanor Roosevelt champions Bellamy's FDR, overcomes his and her own adversities, raises a large family to boot, and is still one of the most famous women in history. Garson has no trouble whatsoever in accomplishing this great feat of portraying so adeptly this powerhouse of a woman. If you like American history (tweaked of course to pass the Hays code), biographies, or Bellamy, or especially Garson, then watch this engrossing film and be transported to another era where even the rich, famous, and powerful people have problems, yet they lead by example and overcome the necessary obstacles together that cover the steps (literally) which eventually lead to their place in political history.
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
A surprising little gem
The first time I saw this film, I was so undone by the underhandedness and unfairness, that I swore it off for future viewings. Then it rolled around on TCM's schedule again, and I had forgotten most of the plot. On this viewing, I paid closer attention to every little detail, and I totally changed my mind about this surprising little film. It had little elements of hilarity that I had forgotten or totally missed the first time. Cagney is quite like that in his comedic roles, I've noticed, and De Hvilland is, too.
After getting to know James Cagney and Jack Carson a bit better through numerous other films, I began to have a newfound attachment to this film. One main reason is that it just makes better sense when you pay close attention. Once that all happens, you see De Havilland is quite charming and her understated attractiveness totally envelops the cheap tramp ways of the usual bombshell, Rita Hayworth.
The only thing that bothers me is the eight years it takes Biff (Cagney) to exact his revenge. Eight years is a long time, but it's a movie and it does fly by! And revenge is exacted. Just as romantic comedies go, there is a very happy ending. The best part is it is totally not formulaic and, therefore, a real surprise. De Havilland and Cagney have one of De Havilland's cutest scenes caught on film as the movie ends. It's a great ending and a surprising little gem made larger and greater by fantastic writing and a superior cast.
Dial M for Murder (1954)
I don't love it, but I'm still drawn to it.
DIAL M FOR MURDER is not my least favorite Hitchcock film, but it also isn't my favorite. However, it has grown on me with repeated viewings, so I'm updating an old review I had deleted which I originally wrote after my first viewing. It's definitely a film I still want to revisit. I appreciate the stylization and simplicity of the set. Since this was originally released in 3D, that explains why the less is more approach works. The plot is plausible. Grace's wardrobe is simple yet lovely, and Grace herself is as beautiful as always.
My issues were and still are with the casting and the acting...two pretty big issues. I don't believe for one minute that Grace Kelly's character would love, much less marry Ray Milland's. I also don't believe that she would become romantically involved with Robert Cummings. Fine actors on their own, they are not credible to me as love interests for such a young beauty. That element weakens the whole plot.
The acting leans toward the over-the-top melodrama of the Golden Age. This is quite unusual and unnecessary in a Hitchcock film. Grace is guilty of it herself. Her accent bothered me originally. She sounds a little British and a little bit of Hollywood vocal polish. Milland, who can be very charming, is almost too bland and his clipped speech drains away his emotion to such a point that it is hard to connect with his character at all and to see how Grace ever could have fallen in love with him. Robert Cummings is pure American Pie, which he really is, but he doesn't seem like someone who would attract Grace Kelly away from her debonair yet older husband. None of the characters seem full of enough emotion to be caught up in a love triangle much less a murder plot. I am plenty capable of suspending belief, but if this movie is going to be so highly ranked in the IMDb 250 out of all the movies in the world, then I find it quite surprising and tend to wonder if guys are so stuck on Grace (in clothes or even in a nightgown) or loyal to Hitchcock that the implausibility of the plot with all of its flaws with the main characters is accepted without question.
I have loved both of these main male stars as well as Kelly in other films. Sometimes I'll watch a film just to get to see these actors act. This one, even after repeated viewings, still bugs me, but I still find myself drawn to it regardless. I've finally realized that it plays like a play. it is simple and the supporting cast and mystery really drive the plot. That is a testament to Hitchcock's ability to pull together a film that doesn't compare in dramatic content to most of his other films, yet it still envelops and endures almost 60 ears later. I'd still say if you are stuck on a Hitchcock picture with Grace Kelly, then go for TO CATCH A THIEF or, even better, REAR WINDOW, but if you are determined to a less action-packed mystery, then DIAL M will draw you in every time.
Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
The best version of them all!
I watched this film because I'm such a fan of Irene Dunne, particularly in her light-hearted romantic and screwball comedies. There are some amusing situations, but this is ultimately a drama and certainly not a lavish musical. It still, to me, is the best version of them all.
This film hits hard right out of the gate with Anna and her son caught in a situation that neither quite expect. Rex Harrison plays the King surprisingly well despite not looking as exotic as Yul Brenner or as truly authentic as Yun-Fat Chow. Dunne's determination and caring for her son spur her on and make her brave and strong in an understated fashion as the film progresses. The main characters repartee is a delight to witness. Their chemistry is just right, and they do not have the luxury of lavish musical numbers to draw them together. One just knows they have a great respect for each other from very fine acting.
I will say that I found this version the most emotionally charged of the three motion pictures, yet it is not a Peyton Place melodrama. Maybe that's why I love it so. It's so well-made in every aspect that it really packs that emotional punch for me. I didn't even recognize the usually very recognizable Lee J. Cobb and somehow missed his name in the credits the first time.
I think this is about as fine an epic drama about forbidden romance and opposing cultures as I've seen. I give most of that credit to the wonderful performances of the leads and the incredibly adept script. It entertains, tugs at your heartstrings, and doesn't disappoint. I highly recommend it as the best version of them all:)
Julia Misbehaves (1948)
Watching Julia misbehave is a real treat:)
I adore this nutty little film. I love Garson, Pidgeon, Taylor, and Lawford in almost any movie and particularly teamed together. Cesar Romero also adds flavor in a comedic supporting role. I enjoy classic and screwball comedies and have a long list made of those (this one is on it). Is this the best of the best? No, but it's fun and well made. That's a prerequisite for my list. I own it and still watch it each time it comes on TCM.
Elizabeth Taylor, as the mutual daughter and young bride, is so young and lovely. She still has an innocence to her performance at this stage that I enjoy. Peter Lawford is young, suave, and cocky. Walter Pidgeon is typical Walter Pidgeon. But it's Greer Garson's movie and in it she shines. She produces screwball romantic comedy antics worthy of Irene Dunne or Jean Arthur.
This is a must see for Garson fans. I highly recommend it to fans of any of the cast or of the genre. It's not perfect, but it sure entertains. And isn't that the point?